October is National Bullying Prevention Month. This is a nationwide campaign founded by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The purpose of this campaign is to unite communities and to educate individuals on the effects of bullying and how they can raise awareness to help prevent it. Over the past decade, there has been an increase of bullying across the country. One place where there has been a major increase in bullying is in schools. StopBullying.gov defines bullying as, “any unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” The school is supposed to be a safe haven; however, some of the worse bullying incidents are happening in school. We all know the effects that bullying can have and where it can push those who have been bullied. It was reported that Dylan Kiebold and Eric Harris were bullied in school, which is what led them to murder eight of their classmates on April 20, 1999. As we are in National Bullying Prevention Month here are five ways schools can speak up and speak out to help prevent bullying in schools:
1. Recognize when bullying is happening and respond immediately
Bullying can take various forms in schools: verbal, written, or physical. Schools must educate and train teachers, students, and parents on ways they can recognize bullying and how they can respond. Often times bullying is happening and many do not recognize the signs of someone who is being bullied. Schools must know the areas where bullying often happens which are: to and from school, in the cafeteria, at recess, or in the restroom. Another major forum is social media. There is an uptick in cyber bullying especially with the increase of technology and social media sites. Mayra Rodriguez wishes she would have responded better when her son 11 year Julio Ortiz told her he was being bullied. He eventually took his own life.
2. Create a Safe and Inclusive School Community
Schools must also create a safe and inclusive school community that promotes the acceptance of everyone. The culture must be one where ALL students feel respected and valued. It is difficult for schools to completely stop bullying from happening, but schools can create space for those who become victims of bullying. Having leaders within the school that can be there to support students who feel as though they are not a part of the school community is key.
3. Zero Tolerance Policy for Bullying
There are many who do not like zero tolerance in schools; however, zero tolerance policy discourages certain behavior. There are countless studies that show schools that have a zero tolerance for fighting are less likely to have fights. I believe that all schools should have a zero tolerance for bullying. If you are caught bullying another student through writing, verbally or physically, you must be dealt with severely. Just as we believe the school is no place for drugs or weapons, it is also not place for students who bully other students. Earlier this year Gabriel Taye, an eight year old from Cincinnati killed himself in his bedroom days after he was bullied and being knocked unconscious at school.
4. Engage Parents
We know that the more engaged parents are the better a student performs academically. The same can go with preventing something like bullying. Whether the school believes the child is the one being bullied or doing the bullying, it is important to engage with parents. Schools should educate parents on how they can talk with their child(ren) about bullying. At the first sign of bullying, schools should bring parents in. Bullying can only be prevented in school when the lines of communication are open between school and parents. When students know the school and their parents are on the same page, this can prevent and deter them from bullying or it can encourage them to speak up if they are or know of someone being bullied.
5. Speak Up/Speak Out
We must speak up louder about the effects of bullying. The highly popular Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why, based on the novel by the say title by Jay Asher, told the story of high school student who slit her wrists in her bathroom. The series hit home for many because it spoke about how for years she had been bullied and no one did anything about it. Many of her classmates were aware or they had an idea that she was being bullied, but no one spoke up. Speaking up for those being bullied is a must. Often times, they are the ones who cannot speak for themselves, so if a student is being bullied and someone knows about it they must speak up. Schools must educate their students to speak up for their classmates if they know they are being bullied.